In my house, music was always kind of a big deal. My mother sings devotional music and classical music from South India, and the rest of us listen to music obsessively. A lot of my memories involve my mother singing, and my brother, father and I trying desperately to sing along. We did not always succeed. I really couldn’t imagine my life without music, and I actually don’t know how to pray without rhythm or music.
So it was a pretty big shock to me when I learned that some Muslims don’t have devotional music. One of the people I’ve met this year dropped this bombshell on me without blinking. I guess in her family, they see music as something that takes you away from this earthly plane – it’s not something that we should be enjoying, in much the same way that other cultures and religions forbid drinking alcohol, or smoking weed, or any number of other drugs. Music is something that has the power to take you away from yourself, and therefore, is on the same plan spiritually as drugs or alcohol.
I never would have believed that there are people who don’t feel music the way I do – rhythms and tunes are so much a part of me that at some point, I guess I started assuming that they were a part of everyone else as well. I think I started seeing music as an embedded part of being human, and it’s really not. It’s external – not everyone feels it the same way, and I feel like understanding that basic fact was a really big step for me. This is hands down the best thing about my job. I get to meet so many people who teach me so many things about the world, and I really can’t wait to learn whatever is next.